No Napping!

War on the poor


They say everybody drives in Los Angeles. That's sometimes true, even of the homeless. But in 1983, because some homeless people were living in their vehicles, the city banned using a car for "living quarters" on any Los Angles street or city-controlled parking lot.

Though the law had been on the book for decades, it wasn't challenged until 2010, when police in the neighborhood of Venice Beach began using it to crack down on vagrants. A lawsuit charged the police with considering the existence of private property in a vehicle (like food or clothing) as evidence that people were living in their cars, even when they weren't actually caught sleeping there.

In June of this year, the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit struck down the law, ruling it a due-process disaster. "Plaintiffs are left guessing as to what behavior would subject them to citation and arrest by an officer," the judges noted. "Is it impermissible to eat food in a vehicle? Is it illegal to keep a sleeping bag? Canned food? Books? What about speaking on a cell phone? Or staying in the car to get out of the rain? These are all actions Plaintiffs were taking when arrested for violation of the ordinance, all of which were otherwise perfectly legal."

Los Angeles officials have said they will not appeal the ruling and will instead craft a new, more specific ordinance.